Archipelago: Source Materials
Hidden Orchestra

Released: 21 Oct 2022

Label: Tru Thoughts

‘Archipelago: Source Materials’ celebrates the ten-year anniversary of the release of the experimental and highly praised ‘Archipelago’ LP by peeling back the curtain, highlighting its origins and how it was made. “I want to celebrate some of the performances that are under the surface of the original album, letting the instrumental compositions breathe”, Hidden Orchestra’s musical mastermind Joe Acheson explains.

‘Archipelago: Source Materials’ brings together Acheson’s favourite parts of the original album; honing the eerie atmospheres and thick orchestral textures Hidden Orchestra have become known for. With hints of birdsong and musical offerings from the worlds of Classical, Folk and Jazz, the finished product is a rich tapestry of diverse sounds, meeting in the middle at a fascinating point of genre crossover. These elements are expressed succinctly on “VI: Overture – No Drums Version”. Described by Acheson as “the introduction to the album”, this standalone piece is peppered with quotations from the rest of the record, including the clarinet melody from “VIII: Hushed – Clarinets”, played by Tomáš Dvořák, echoes of Su-a Lee’s cello from “XI: Flight – Cello & Strings”, the electro harp melody and clarsach shimmers from “X: Disquiet – Harps”, played by Mary Macmaster, and some of Acheson’s kantele riffs from “III: Väinämöinen – Kanteles, Harps & Zithers”. Reflecting the abstract emotions contained on ‘Archipelago: Source Materials’, the track’s richness is highlighted without the intricate layers of drum programming, field recordings and sound effects.

Focus track “IV: Spoken – Trumpet, Keys, Gongs & Birds” exposes the warmth and plaintive vocal tone of Phil Cardwell’s trumpet, electric piano chords, and gongs. Most notably, the track features birdsong recorded on the remote Scottish island of North Rona in the Outer Hebrides. Travelling thirty miles off the Northern tip of the Isle of Lewis, the recordings were collected on the same trip with artist Norman Ackroyd where they visited the Flannan Isles, which feature on the front cover of the album. This group of small islands (a tiny archipelago) are known as The Seven Hunters – giving their name to the final track on the original release, presented here as “VII. Seven Hunters – Strings & Harp” and “XII. Seven Hunters – Birds & Wind Instruments”, which feature Fraser Fifield on saxophone, whistle, and kaval.